I feel like I just fell into John Lennon's acid trip.
This week's Wii Virtual Console release is a game for the Sega Master System called Fantasy Zone 2 - The Tears of Opa-Opa. A shoot-em-up (or "shmup") from Sega's early 8-bit console days, Fantasy Zone 2 follows its cult-classic predecessor by combining game play elements from other popular shmups of the day with upbeat music, psychedelic backgrounds, and surreal enemies. Truly, many of the game's antagonists (both basic enemies and bosses alike) are more likely to be at home in a Looney Tunes animated short than a side-scrolling video game.
Like all good shmups, the story only rears its ugly head during the
prologue and ending.
The storyline itself is just as zany as the level design and adversaries. The player assumes the role of Opa-Opa, a sentient spaceship who freed a group of planets (the titular "Fantasy Zone") from malevolent invaders led by Opa-Opa's father in the "Space Year 6216". Ten years later (in this game's present), the Fantasy Zone has once again fallen prey to an attack by invaders from the planet "Nenon". Determined to put an end to this new threat and uncover the mastermind behind this most recent evil plot, Opa-Opa speeds off toward the Fantasy Zone once more. It's all quite melodramatic and a good primer for the game itself.
It's like Salvatore Dali had one too many Pixie Sticks.
And what of the "game itself"? For the most part, the levels are as free-roaming as a game from 1987 can allow; the player can move both left and right along an infinitely looping background, similar to the original game. Like the original game, enemies, when defeated, drop money which can be used to purchase weapons and ship upgrades in shops hidden at key points in each level. In order to advance to the boss of each stage, as in the original game, the player must destroy all enemy "bases" scattered throughout the area. A new feature found in Fantasy Zone 2 is the sheer size of each level. Indeed, all levels in the game are broken into three sub-stages (connected loosely by warp zones), with each containing its own unique background and set of enemy bases. Another change from the first game is found in the boss battles. Instead of facing each boss and shooting somewhat aimlessly as in Fantasy Zone, every boss in Fantasy Zone 2 has a specific pattern, weakness, or series of obstacles setting it apart from the other bosses in the game. The basic enemy flying and shooting patterns have also been enhanced, making the game more difficult and, ultimately, more rewarding.
So, is this game worth the 500 Wii Point price tag? While it shares much in common with its predecessor (perhaps too much for some), Fantasy Zone 2 takes the best elements of the original game and gives the player more. Whether it's the challenging bosses, wacky scenery, or classic shmup action, casual gamers and hardcore shoot-em-up fans alike will find something that makes Fantasy Zone 2 - The Tears of Opa-Opa seem like a steal at its current price.